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"All who set foot in Paliano are pawns in someone's play for power."

Marchesa

My commander is Marchesa d'Amati, the Black Rose of Paliano. With the throne held by Brago, King Eternal , she realized that the only way to usurp power was to undermine its influence. At the head of her network of assassins, rogues, and purchased politicians, Marchesa moved her pieces towards checkmate.

In this deck, manipulation the key to victory. Creatures die at your bequest, and your own life total is no more than a tool at your disposal. A Marchesa, the Black Rose deck flirts with death, risking everything to achieve a satisfying victory.

We all know how ridiculous sac-outlets are in commander. They protect creatures from being exiled and take away much of the value garnered by the format's all-too prevalent boardwipes. Marchesa then recurs these sacrifices, completely nullifying the price of losing a creature. In a multi-faceted symbiosis, sac outlets also fuel cards like Blood Artist or Midnight Reaver.

- Cytoplast Manipulator - Drana, Liberator of Malakir - Metallic Mimic - Mikaeus, the Unhallowed - Olivia, Mobilized for War - Spark Double - Unspeakable Symbol - Vigean Graftmage

Dethrone is a weak way of protecting creatures that want to be sacrificed compared to our enablers. They can only eat one boardwipe until they are weak to any form of removal. That's not to mention that they can only be sacrificed once per turn cycle. I draw satisfaction from the sheer number of cards in this deck that never see play outside it. Unspeakable Symbol? Vigean Graftmage? What is this jank? Well, it's the best jank we have.

The graft creatures can be sacrificed every single turn, but their true strength lies in granting that luxury to Sower of Temptation or Kokusho, the Evening Star. They also protect the commander the moment it hits the field, when the deck is most vulnerable.

Drana is an odd inclusion in this category because she fails to protect creatures or enable our engine. She is here because she enables this hodgepodge to get into the red zone without necessarily going for dethrone, or to double-down on it.

- Chromatic Lantern - Dimir Signet - Izzet Signet - Rakdos Signet - Sol Ring - Talisman of Creativity - Talisman of Dominance - Talisman of Indulgence

I'm combining these since they share two purposes. Obviously they both produce mana, but most importantly they both allow this deck to manipulate its own life total. Under the call of staying in dethrone range, there is an opportunity to gain a lot of power from untapped mana and card draw. Other decks can enter a death spiral from running this many painlands, but not us. Don't worry, there are plenty of ways to gain the life back later.

Land-outlets may not be particularly powerful, but there is no opportunity cost.

- Dark Prophecy - Grim Haruspex - Midnight Reaper - Necropotence - Skullclamp - Smothering Abomination

Drawing cards as creatures die is needed for an aristocrat deck to negate the loss of losing its creatures. With Marchesa, that loss is already negated, meaning that we are going into the positive for every creature that visits the graveyard. Not to mention that these have strong synergy with Chasm Skulker and Toothy. Smothering Abomination looks a mite strange, but I must insist that drawing cards off of dying tokens is a difficult effect to find. This deck is a good case of why it is so hard to find, and a reason why the BBB cost of Dark Prophecy is tolerated.

I have danced around this long enough. So far you've read about how this deck sacrifices creatures, how it can sacrifice creatures more often, and what it gains off of sacrificing creatures, but what is being sacrificed? I'll begin with the value options.

Paying three mana every turn to get a Explosive Vegetation with Burnished Hart could be considered a win condition of its own. Impaler Shrike was one of my very first inclusions in the deck. While I have added a lot more card draw (or some more was printed) since then, it continues to over-perform. It needs no sac outlet, just a dethrone target and it's golden. Bloodtracker is my low CMC substitute for Thraximundar. It grows into a massive flying beater, keeping the deck in dethrone range while drawing cards if the need arises.

Okay, now it's time to talk about Wizards' word choice in Marchesa's last ability. "Whenever a creature you control with a +1/+1 counter on it dies, return that card to the battlefield under your control at the beginning of the next end step." Did you catch that? If you steal a creature with, say Mark of Mutiny , and sacrifice it, Marchesa will return it to your control in the next endstep. For your opponents, there are fates far worse than death for their best creatures. Cytoplast Manipulator is also capable of this, even if her graft ability put her in a different category.

Death triggers in a can. Whether it's squids, goblins, spawn, or sea creatures, they all accomplish effectively the same task. They are also one of the best ways to combo off. Each card drawn off of Dark Prophecy puts counters on Chasm Skulker, sacrificing it gives squids that can be sacrificed to put more counters on it, rinse, repeat.

Welcome to one of the main win conditions. While Marchesa references the combat step a few times in her text, I rarely win the game with combat damage. Flinging Flayer of the Hatebound for 9 damage per turn (four times per turn cycle) or looping Kokusho with Metallic Mimic gets around Sphere of Safety and Solitary Confinement.

- Blood Artist - Judith, the Scourge Diva - Stalking Vengeance - Zulaport Cutthroat

Blood Artist effects manipulate life totals and incrementally burn out the opposition. Whether Stalking Vengeance turns every creature into a Flayer of the Hatebound or is five Judiths stapled onto each other is up to you. It really doesn't matter as long as 20 damage is flung at the opponent every turn.

- Chaos Warp - Nevermaker

There are few things that interact with what I'm trying to do in a meaningful way. Those that do are my worst nightmare. Rest in Peace , Linvala, Keeper of Silence , Leyline of the Void , Anafenze, the Foremost, Humility ... These colors lack meaningful ways to remove these threats that aren't the most narrow cards you can think of ( Aura Thief , Aura Flux ). Nevermaker only forestalls Rest in Peace for a single turn, so make it count. Still, it is removal that is always relevant.

- Blasphemous Act - Dictate of Erebos - Grave Pact - Profaner of the Dead

Look through this list and count how many cards interact with indestructible or hexproof creatures. Untargeted sac, bounce, or Control Magic effects ruin any Narset, Uril, or Kestia player at the table.

Throughout this primer, you have seen win conditions slotted into a solid value engine. What has been missing up to now was the Craterhoof Behemoth of the deck. Sure, Kokusho does end the game, but this is how the game is ended with overwhelming force.

Black Market is a black Omniscience . Untapping with this is a guarantee that the turn will reshape the flow of the game. As if that weren't powerful enough, I want you to imagine the deck so far. There have been solid ways to gain back the life lost by the powerful manabase. Now look at Bolas's Citadel. The turn it is played, every card in the deck can be cast. Sacrifice creatures to draw dead lands off the top, find Blood Artist to keep the life flowing, and win the game on the spot.

Death Cloud and Jokulhaups, with Marchesa on the board, wipe every land, hand, creature, and/or artifact, removing almost any chance of interaction when the Grixis player's creatures survive the apocalypse.

Board stalls are broken and dethrone realizes its true potential. It's a straightforward win condition, but no less powerful.

A board wipe version of Mind Control . Insurrection also works, but I found the triple red and seven mana to be a bit costly. Steal, swing, sac, keep.

This was my first commander deck. With it, I sought to build a creature deck that was resilient to boardwipes, which plagued my meta. I soon discovered that she was capable of being more than a simple umbrella against wraths. This became my pet deck and it amassed quite the reputation among my playgroup. A dependence on Marchesa and a weakness to Rest in Peace are among the deck's few weaknesses, but proper sequencing and politics can serve to circumvent such shortcomings. While this deck is not my most competitive, that honor belonging to my Queen Marchesa stax list, it is easily the most enjoyable. If aristocrats is an archetype that you have always wanted to play, look no further. Not only does Marchesa provide something that aristocrats decks need, but she does it in colors that are not often seen in this archetype. I hope that you give her a try; there is truly nothing like it.


The Rose Has Thorns!

Commander / EDH* DarkStarStorm

SCORE: 15 | 19 COMMENTS | 1678 VIEWS | IN 7 FOLDERS


This deck is a lot of things, but control is not one of them. That's where Queen Marchesa comes in. If you want to know what it feels like to play as the player with the highest life total, the one everyone is trying to dethrone, then wonder no more. It's not just control; it's Mardu STAX!

Suggestions

Updates Add

Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin

Second copy of Hanweir Garrison that doesn't need dethrone and creates more tokens.

Massacre Girl

Repeatable boardwipe that can kill indestructible creatures.

Spark Double

An enabler for our best creature, or a second Marchesa!

Bolas's Citadel

I win the turn this is played, end of story.

Comments

37% Casual

63% Competitive





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